This article was originally published on March 25, 2020.
Captain Picard met his fair share of interesting aliens during his time aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D, but no single being proved to be as perpetually vexing to the seasoned officer as the mysterious entity known as Q. The representative from the Q Continuum took an interest in humanity and delighted in his mischievous visits to see Picard and his crew. Though the omnipotent explorer assured his audience that his arrival benefited them in the long run, Q’s playful demeanor and grandiose actions frequently concealed his true purposes from the Federation starship,. Missions involving Q typically drew the captain’s ire, but even Picard was occasionally forced to admit that Q’s appearances presented key lessons for the Starfleet veteran to employ.
Today, let’s look back on the most influential pieces of wisdom that Q conferred upon the captain during his many excursions to the Enterprise-D.
7. Benevolent Omnipotence in “Deja Q”
Kicked out of the Continuum for his troublesome behavior, Q unceremoniously landed on Picard’s bridge and requested sanctuary. Logically weary of Q’s claims, the captain nevertheless permitted Q to assist in devising a means to hinder Bre’el IV’s moon from crashing into the planet. Unsurprisingly, Picard and his crew discovered that Q’s decision to hide on their vessel actually stemmed from a fear that certain species who he had tormented would seek vengeance on his mortal form. When that species, the Calamarain, show up with that very intention, Data nearly sacrifices himself to protect Q. The encounter struck a chord with Q, who attempted to depart the starship and prevent the crew from falling into harm’s way again. Q’s unexpected selflessness impressed Picard and taught the captain that there was more to the Continuum than initially met the eye.
6. The Human Equation in “Hide and Q”
Intrigued by humanity, Q whisked several officers away to participate in a deadly “game” that pitted them against brutal alien soldiers. Hoping to recruit Riker into the Continuum, Q refused to intervene as the creatures killed Worf and bayoneted Wesley Crusher. The tragic turn tempted Riker enough that he called upon his newfound powers to revive the crew and return them to the Enterprise. The first officer gradually succumbed to Q’s alluring proposal and offered to fulfill his shipmates’ greatest wishes. Picard sanctioned the endeavor, but only because he knew that the command crew would refuse Riker’s gifts and convince him to spurn the Continuum. The incident underlined humanity’s special nature and caused Picard to reach an important conclusion. The captain hypothesized that the human equation surpassed other galactic mysteries in its complexity, thus puzzling the supposedly omnipotent Q.
5. Trust In One’s Convictions in “Encounter at Farpoint”
On Picard’s maiden voyage as the Enterprise-D’s captain, Q introduced himself and placed the crew on trial for humanity’s violent past. Picard’s suggestion that his species should be judged by their current actions thrilled Q, who hinted that the mission to Farpoint Station would supply the perfect test for the ship’s personnel. Although Q watched their movements, Picard declared that the Starfleet officers needed to stay true to their beliefs and proceed as if they were not being monitored. Once the situation became dire, Q strove to interfere and encouraged Picard to attack the interstellar lifeform that threatened Groppler Zorn’s Old Bandi City. The captain resisted Q’s persistent prodding and stood firm in his convictions, electing to help the massive entity rather than treating it as hostile. The positive outcome reinforced Picard’s trust in humanity’s potential, a wise lesson to receive prior to an ambitious seven-year expedition.
4. Healing Old Wounds in “Qpid”
Q assumed a more direct route to advise Picard in this episode, as he openly stated that he wished to do a favor for the captain and repay the human for his aid in “Deja Q.” A dispute between Picard and Vash presented an excellent backdrop for Q’s good intentions, so Q drafted Picard to serve as Robin Hood and save Vash from certain death in an illusory Sherwood Forest. The captain hesitated to acknowledge his feelings for the woman, but Q knew that Picard could not avoid risking everything to locate Vash and demonstrate his emotional attachment to her. While Q professed to undertake the game as a means of showing love’s pitfalls to Picard, the Continuum’s most notable member clearly remained aware that the events would bring Picard and Vash even closer. On this rare occasion, Q’s meddling purposely benefited the captain’s personal life.
3. Unknowable Possibilities in “All Good Things…”
The Next Generation’s series finale featured Picard shifting between the past, present, and future as an anti-time anomaly threatened the quadrant. Q brought the captain back to the tribunal from “Encounter at Farpoint” and stated that Picard himself would destroy humanity. Q also confessed that he was responsible for the captain’s temporal jaunts, a statement which made Picard aware that Q actually hoped to guide him through the situation. After it dawned on Picard that he caused the anomaly in the future, the captain coordinated the effort to collapse the schism. Beaming with pride, Q explained that the Continuum had granted Picard the opportunity to recognize the paradox and briefly fathom existence’s possibilities. Perhaps the most stunning turn occurred when Picard thanked Q for sending him through time and helping him save humanity. Picard and Q being cordial to one another? What better way to show off the universe’s limitless potential?
2. Hidden Dangers in “Q Who”
Picard’s assertion that his crew was prepared for any adventure provoked Q into dispatching the Enterprise over 7,000 light-years across the galaxy. Q warned the captain against humanity’s swift expansion and set the ship on an intercept course with a Borg cube. The ensuing events resulted in the deaths of eighteen Starfleet officers, as the Borg displayed an unwavering focus and technological superiority over the Federation. Left pleading for Q to intervene, Picard acquiesced to the omnipotent being’s contention that incomprehensible horrors hid throughout the Milky Way. The captain condemned the fact that lives were lost, but he later admitted that Q had shaken him from his complacency. The wounds to Picard’s confidence prevented his arrogance from expanding too far and dooming him in his future dealings with the Collective.
1. The Road Not Taken in “Tapestry”
The prospect of fixing one’s mistakes and traveling a different path can be deceptively alluring. Struck down on an away mission, Picard found himself discussing his own youthful errors with Q. In his infinite wisdom, Q afforded the captain the freedom to relive a series of significant events and change his life’s entire trajectory. Initially hesitant, Picard finally gave in to the temptation by dampening his undisciplined behavior, pursuing a physical relationship with his friend Marta, and playing it safe during a face-off with Nausicaans.
The outcome? Picard learned that this conservative and dispassionate attitude would have prevented him from taking chances, cherishing each moment, and thriving as a Starfleet captain. Doctor Crusher managed to revive Picard, leaving him to wonder whether or not he had spoken to Q or simply dreamed the whole affair. In either case, the captain appreciated his newfound perspective on his early years and made peace with his decisions. Did Q actually bestow Picard with this gift, or was it a hallucination? Ironically, this uncertainty makes “Tapestry” the ideal episode to grace the top of our list. After all, what better way to honor Q’s influence on Picard’s existence than with such an ambiguous contribution?
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who contributes articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.